Friday, August 26, 2011

Interview: Annie Smits Sandano

Annie Smits Sandano is a 28-year-old artist who was born in Brazil, and now lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Annie has worked full time as an artist since 2008; her work has been included in dozens of group exhibitions around the world in addition to a few solo shows. Annie has very kindly agreed to answer some questions about her work for me. The first image below is titled 'Kokowhai Rauponga with Tuis', and an expat New Zealand couple gifted an edition of it to Prince William and Kate Middleton as a wedding present! Choosing only a few works to show on this post was extremely difficult, so make sure you browse Annie's galleries on her website after reading this!

When do you believe you got your 'big break' or do you feel that is yet to happen?
I’m still working away at it, I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve met along the way so far, but I’ve also worked so so hard to keep up with my work.

What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?
I feel so grateful for the incredible support I’ve had in my early career, from having works from my first solo show bought by the James Wallace Arts Trust, to a piece being given to Prince William and Kate Middleton as a Royal Wedding gift from a New Zealand representative at their wedding, to having works purchased by the Hilton Group... These are all the bigger CV enriching things, but I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I think that some of the most rewarding experiences in working with art is the personal relationships people form with your work and the significance they invest in it. It’s amazing to have someone chose a piece for someone they love dearly, and that image will represent something meaningful to them for a long time... I’ve even had people get tattoos of images from some of my prints!

How do you record your ideas for new pieces?
I write down ideas that interest my direction of work, I read a lot. I also take photographs of textures, colour combinations, shapes, objects, images, and that might be of relevance to those ideas. I do draw, mostly when I am problem solving with compositions.

How long does it take you to prepare a body of work to exhibit?
It really depends on what I am going to exhibit. Sometimes there are works take longer to install than to make! I am a believer in taking time with your work. I think giving it time to develop gives it more depth and substance. By this I don’t mean in terms of how long it takes you to execute a piece but conceptualise and develop it thematically and stylistically as well.

What role, if any, has the internet played in your artistic career?
I think the internet has its place. It’s been a fantastic way of exposing my work to audiences outside the audience which is within physical access of my art. The internet also gives you an insight to what other artists are doing in other countries, what is happening, how you fit in or don’t.

Do you have any special routines or rituals when it comes to creating your artwork?
I don’t really believe in rituals, I just work. Music makes it more fun while you’re working, my taste is pretty eclectic, so I like to listen to a lot of different stuff.

What inspired you to develop your papersculpt work?
When I first started making paper sculpture installations I was originally influenced by the artisans that make the carnival floats in the processions in Brazil. The display format which made most sense to me in relation to that concept was a three-dimensional one. I was working in a medium that had a tradition of being presented in a two-dimensional way, so my only alternative was to adapt that to a visual language that bridged the two things. In later years I was making paper sculpture works that were not based on carnival, so was looking at other artists who use paper, but use it in a three-dimensional proposition. Artists like Michael Velliquette, Lauren Clay and Justine Smith.

Do you have a favourite medium?
Large paper-based installations.

You feature many different animals in your works- what do they mean to you?
I’ve always been interested in cultural iconography and what constitutes it. In the areas that I’ve been interested so far, animals seem to be a prevalent feature. In some ways I might seek out this particular theme in the iconography I chose to look at, I enjoy the anthropomorphic qualities that animals have, and the light-hearted fun-factor that comes with working with images of animals.

What artistic training do you have, and do you believe you have benefited more from formal lessons or your own experimentation in developing your style?
I have a Fine Arts Degree from Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University. I also have another 9 months of independent art training at SACI in Florence, Italy, and the Rhode Island School of Design in the USA. I believe each experience has it’s specific value, I benefited from both. I value my formal training, but it’s the experimentation informed by that, but outside of that, which enabled me to develop my style.

Do you remember the first piece of artwork that you sold?
I do! It was a ruby red skull wood cut print with golden foil teeth! I was stunned that there was a person out there that enjoyed that particular style of work as much as I did! It was sold while I was in my third year at university.

Who are your favourite artists?
I have so many... each one for so many different reasons... Caravaggio, Kathryn Barton, Beatriz Milhazes, E.Mervyn Taylor, John Currin, Joshua Yeldham, Jan Nigro, Inka Essenhigh, Dana Schutz, etc, etc... the list goes on.

Do you have any particular goals for the next five years?
Continue developing my work in New Zealand and also show my work in the USA and Europe. I would also love to have an exhibition in Brazil. I would also like to do a couple of international residencies.

Do you have any advice for young artists, particularly those who have not traveled very much?
I think just be persistent. I know of artists who have not travelled very much at all and are doing very well because of their persistence and commitment to their work. At the end of the day that’s the fundamental thing.

What other work or hobbies are you involved with?
My art allows me to be involved with several charity and fund raising efforts, so I try to participate in as much as I am able to. Since New Zealand is surrounded by such beautiful ocean-scape I love to be out in the water as often as possible when I’m not at work in my studio!


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When you use the koru in your artwork, is there some sort of meaning to it?

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